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Hi all.

I am going through clicker training for the first time with my 12-month-old border collie. My previous dog was also a BC trained by me but I did not use clicker training. My current dog is a shelter rescue; I've had him since early January, and he is doing very well. It is my goal to do agility competition with him, but first we are working on basic obedience, manners and tricks. Currently he is doing very well in all three.

With the clicker, I have shaped a few behaviours out of him, such as bowing, rolling over, and covering his eyes with his paws. I have since added a name to the behaviours and he now does them on command. However, he also does them in his own free time or as a lure to get my attention. I will be working on the computer, look over at him and he will be lying on his dog bed with his face under his paws. This is definitely a learned behaviour, since it didn't start until after I shaped it with the clicker. I don't reward him at these times, because although I think it's cute, he can already do it on command and that was all I wanted. So my question is whether this is a normal process of clicker training. The thing is, I plan on doing a lot of tricks with him, and if he is going to be offering these random behaviours even after the trick learning is completed, it could start to look a little strange :)

The other question is what to do when the dog is offering two behaviours at the same time, and I am interested in both. For instance when he was trying to guess what I wanted in the covering-eyes-with-paws trick, he would sometimes fold one paw over the other while lying down, a sort of arms-crossed thing. Now I would like to have that for a trick too, but I thought it might be too confusing if I was rewarding that in addition to rewarding his paw movements over his eye.

My last question is ideas on how to get him to bark on command... when he doesn't bark normally. I hardly ever hear this dog bark; sometimes he will bark when he wants to go outside, but it's only ever one bark and then he's done. The other time he barks is when I leave ... and this isn't something I want to reward, and even if I did want to, it would be kind of difficult since of course I'm not even there to click and treat him.
 

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Yeah, offering the latest trick for attention is pretty normal :) This is called stimulus control, once the behaviour is on cue you only reward when you give the cue. Eventually the dog will realise that the only opportunity for reinforcement is when you give the cue, and stop offering the behaviour.

You should only shape one new behaviour per session. If you're rewarding covering the face and also rewarding crossing paws, the dog will get confused. You can train the two different behaviours at the same time, just not in the same session, or at the very least not alternating them in the same session.

Once covering the eyes is on cue, you can have sessions where you only reward crossing the paws, and then make a cue for that too. When you give the cues to begin with the dog might offer either behaviour, but then you only reward the correct response, and the dog should catch on quickly. Don't repeat the cue though, if the dog offers the wrong behaviour just wait him out and he will eventually offer the other behaviour, and then you can reward that.

As for barking, he has to actually offer the behaviour for you to capture it. So if he never barks, you can't teach him to bark on cue. So either just don't worry about it, or find a way to make him bark.
 

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Thanks for your reply, lil_fuzzy :)

There is one other situation where he barks that I forgot to mention... he barks in his sleep, about once a day. He has a special bark that he only uses in his sleep, it's very quiet, maybe 25% of the volume of a regular bark. He will do about 3-4 of these quiet barks, his paws and nose twitching as well in his sleep. It's super cute but this isn't something I could ever capture right? Even if I woke him up right after... well he wouldn't know that he was barking out loud but he might remember barking in the dream right when I woke him up. I don't know, maybe I should try it. It might be the best chance I have :D
 

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For me, the multiple behaviors thing depends on my goal with that shaping session.

Often times, I will accept any behavior I find useful for later purposes. If I am just trying to "generate behaviors" or have him stay in a "shaping is fun" mindset, I'll take whatever and see where it leads. I think of this as building up his repertoire of behaviors that he is going to be willing to try in order to solve a problem. I especially do this if I plan on doing something difficult or somewhat complex from the ground up. Giving him more "this might work" behaviors gives him more to try and combine (behavioral adduction - the process of the dog combining two or more behaviors that all, in his mind, could be applicable - so the behaviors end up occurring at once, creating a new behavior. Example, when learning front and finish, initially, he thought both might be applicable - so he sat facing me (front) but in finish position, so he's sitting perpendicular to me, looking up at me) in an attempt to solve a problem.

Sometimes I just want to make him think and further reinforce the "try something else" mentality. That's when I play our usual game of "what behavior am I thinking of?" where he offers stuff trying to figure out what behavior it is and I'll change the behavior every so often. Sometimes we get variation of tricks (more adduction), like speaking while rolled over or slapping his paws while pulling and moving forward (a paw/shake, crawl, and trying to grab at something all at once).

If I am shaping towards a specific goal, then I will indeed reject other behaviors that do not lead towards the end goal behavior. For me and Wally, we usually do this after "generating" lots of behaviors so I have worry about "losing" a potentially interesting behavior in the future (they all end up on a VSR so they all have the "maybe this time it will work" program in his mind even though the specific task we're doing now is not one of those times).

For the barking, that's difficult because Wally didn't use to "offer" barking either. I kept getting him excited back then, saying "Wally!" over and over excitedly which got his tail wagging and then one day he actually barked and when I c/t it, he would stop. I kept doing this for some days, then one day, I decided to just wait. His tail started "winding up" and then he barked! I c/t it and again he would stop. Waiting some more, he hesitantly barked again, almost like he was thinking "let me see if this happens again" (skeptic dog lol).

That went on for some days. Then I would get him barking, but then instead of just getting him excited with any word, I'd start saying "Speak" when he would offer those barks faster (so I'd good odds that he'd bark), and c/t when he did.

After all of that, the biggest breakthrough was some random event - a dog behind a fence that would bark at him. One day, he just let out the loudest bark I think he's ever done (and he can get loud). From that day on, getting him to bark was as simple as getting him excited - which then let me attach "Speak!" to it and a new cue was born. It also ended up creating his "wind up his tail before barking" as a side effect (he must have thought that he has to wag his tail before he can bark from those earlier attempts LOL) almost like a warning sign that "I'm about to bark at <whatever>.
 

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However, he also does them in his own free time or as a lure to get my attention. I will be working on the computer, look over at him and he will be lying on his dog bed with his face under his paws.
'Spontaneous rehearsal' indicates that the dog is actually trying, by emitting behaviours on his own accord. It's also an expression of his creativity, and generally speaking creativity should be encouraged. In my opinion, these are good things to see within a dog, although I would not reinforce the unsolicited behaviours specifically.
If you find SR to be troublesome as some people might, then simply ignore it. Personally, I try to look through it to see it's true value.

The other question is what to do when the dog is offering two behaviours at the same time, and I am interested in both. For instance when he was trying to guess what I wanted in the covering-eyes-with-paws trick, he would sometimes fold one paw over the other while lying down, a sort of arms-crossed thing. Now I would like to have that for a trick too, but I thought it might be too confusing if I was rewarding that in addition to rewarding his paw movements over his eye.
Golden Rule #1 of clicker training: if you see something else that you like, or something else that you may need down the road ...never be afraid to TAKE IT ! for the time being, even if you happen to be working on an entirely different behaviour at present. Dogs seem to be able to get back on the right track rather easily, and picking up that second behaviour now could prove to be an invaluable move, later.


My last question is ideas on how to get him to bark on command... when he doesn't bark normally. I hardly ever hear this dog bark;
You could try to elicit a bark somehow, to begin with.
ie: teasing, mild frustration, etc
Waking him up in the midst of a dream bark, likely will net you nothing.

EDIT: apparently I was typing at the same time as KBLover, who has similar points to my own, but much more eloquently stated. Good work KB!
 
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